Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Arrival

The Arrival The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Book 60 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge

Awards: New South Wales Premier's Literary Award; 2006 Cybils Award; Bologna Ragazzi Award, Special Mention; Spectrum Award; Junior Library Guild Selection; World Fantasy Artist of the Year; A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2007; A New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007;'s Best Teen Book of 2007; 2007 Parents' Choice Gold Award; A Book Sense Winter 2007-2008 Top Ten Children’s Pick; A New York Public Library Best Book for Reading and Sharing; A New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2007; Rocky Mountain News, A Top Ten Book of the Year; The Columbus Dispatch, A Best Book of 2007; Booklist; A School Library Journal Best Book of 2007; A Washington Post Best Book for Young People for 2007; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon for Fiction; ALA Notable Children's Book, 2008; ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, 2008; ALA Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2008; Horn Book Fanfare Book 2007; Metropolitan Home Magazine's Design 100, 2008; An IRA Notable Book for a Global Society, 2008; 2008 Locus Award, Best Art Book; 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, special citation for excellence in graphic storytelling; CCBC Choices 2008; Nominated for an International Horror Guild Award, Illustrated Narrative; Nominated for 2008 Hugo Award

rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Arrival is a wordless graphic novel that explores the trials and triumphs of the immigration experience. Set in a fantastical world that borrows from our own, readers will recognize images that Tan used to base the novel on, including Ellis Island and post-WWII Europe. However, there is a different alphabet, make-believe animals, and hot air balloons used for travel.

The book is entirely sepia-toned pencil drawings with gorgeous detail. Shaun Tan spent four years working on this book, and it shows. Although Tan is an illustrator first and foremost, I did miss his personal voice.

Since there are no words, I would say this book is experienced rather than read. It is a unique and thought-provoking book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Suite Scarlett

Suite Scarlett Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Book 59 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 7 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

Award: YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first Maureen Johnson book and I thought it was adorable. Scarlett Martin lives with her family in an Art Deco hotel in New York City. Times are tough and Scarlett and her three siblings have to do a lot of work to keep the family business afloat. Scarlett's older sister, Lola, also works at Henri Bendel and dates a rich Manhattanite. Scarlett's older brother, Spencer, wants to be an actor but his parents want him to go to culinary school on scholarship. They have a younger sister, Marlene, who is a cancer survivor and tends to think the world revolves around her.

Scarlett has just turned 15 and she's anticipating the most boring summer of her life working in the hotel. But, things get crazy when an interesting guest comes to stay and Spencer starts working on an off-Broadway show. Scarlett ends up spending quite a bit of time with the cast, including an 18 year old boy named Eric, fresh from Winston-Salem.

I loved immersing myself in Scarlett's world. Although there is a cute romance element to the book, I really loved the interactions she had with each of her siblings. I do wish the parents had better developed characters. But everyone's flaws were so real, I laughed and cringed right along with them. Even though the story has some unbelievable moments, the ending was so down-to-earth and just right, I can't complain at all. I did just read that this is the first in a trilogy. The next one, Scarlett Fever, will be out in January 2010.

I really enjoyed this one and look forward to reading more by the same author.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Permanent Rose

Permanent Rose Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay

Book 58 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Awards: BCCB Blue Ribbon Book; Horn Book Fanfare
Series: Book 3 of 5 (Casson Family)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved the first two books in this series (here and here). This one was fun, as usual, but not my favorite of the series so far.

Caddy can't decide whether she wants to get married, Eve is painting pictures on the walls of the hospital, one of Indigo's old bullies is trying to be his friend, Saffy wants to know who her father is, and Rose is missing Tom. Bill, the dad, turns out to be as much of a creep as I was desperately hoping he wouldn't be.

All in all, a solid book in the ever thickening plot of the Casson Family. But this one was a little too over-the-top-soap-opera-drama-ish. Still, I know I'll be sad when I finish these.

I'd recommend this series for ages 12+.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gregor the Overlander

Gregor the Overlander (The Underland Chronicles: Book One) Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Book 57 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Award: Parent's Guide Book Award/Honor Book

Part of a Series: Book 1 of 5 (Underland Chronicles)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first of five books in a middle grade fantasy series from Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins. I got the first three books in this series on the super cheap from the Scholastic Warehouse Sale and I'm excited to read them all and pass them along to my kids.

Gregor is an 11 year old living in an apartment in NYC with his mom, grandma and sisters. His dad had disappeared two years previously and Gregor was feeling a little upset that he had to spend the summer watching his two year old sister, Boots, while his mom worked. While changing the laundry in the basement, Boots falls down a vent and Gregor falls down after her. They find themselves in the Underland--a world of humans, and abnormally large rats, roaches, and spiders where they must embark on a quest.

Slightly reminiscent of A Wrinkle in Time, I think this book will be loved by both girls and boys. There is action and adventure, with a nice balance of sentiment. I loved how Gregor took responsibility for Boots. And Boots herself was so true to life of my own two year old girl, I couldn't help but be in love with her. This is a very enjoyable tale that will have great appeal for those looking beyond Harry Potter. Recommended for ages 8+.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Woman in White

The Woman in White (Giant Thrifts) The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Book 56 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 2 for the Classics Challenge

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading this book is a classic example of why I don't like to re-read books. I know I liked it the first time. I read it in high school when I was going through a serious mystery and classics phase. The Moonstone is listed as one of my favorite books. Now I'm wondering, if I re-read it, would it still have that place in my heart? Or, have my reading tastes changed so much as I have aged that it too would fall from grace as this one has? Or, was this one just not as good the second time around because I kept feeling like there is so much good stuff to be reading that re-reading this 700 page tome is just a waste of my time?

I don't know. There were parts I really enjoyed. I know it is well-written and I know it deserves its place in the world of classics. But, I had to force myself to read a certain number of pages everyday and even then, I should have finished days ago.

The story revolves around two women who look exactly alike. Anne Catherick has just escaped from an insane asylum and Laura Fairlie is an aristocrat. There lives become entwined by Walter Hartright, a master painter. He unwittingly helps Anne escape the asylum right before he takes a position as the drawing instructor of Laura Fairlie.

The Woman in White has all the qualities of a great Victorian novel: romance, intrigue, and class warfare. This book has so much drama, you can really see why it was so sensational when it released back in 1860. I like that Wilkie Collins employed (what was then) a very new technique--writing the book from the different character's perspectives. But, somehow I was just impatient with it. The reader isn't left to wonder about a single solitary thing since all the elements of the story are explained in so much detail.

If you haven't read a Wilkie Collins novel, I really suggest reading one. I think maybe I just wasn't in the mood for this one right now.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Tales From Outer Suburbia

Tales From Outer Suburbia Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Book 55 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 6 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 6 of 10 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Australia)

Award: Australian Aurealis Awards

rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that I'm glad I didn't judge by the cover. Honestly, it might be my least favorite illustration in the whole book. Tales From Outer Suburbia is one of the most unique books I've ever read. It's not a book to read quickly. You should savor each illustration, each word, each idea. Made up of 15 short stories, some are just funny, some are zany, and some are deceptively deep. You will get out whatever you put into this book tenfold.

I think my favorite selection in the book was about where discarded poems go. There's also a story about a guy who shows up in a suburban neighborhood wearing a dripping wet antique diving suit, a story about stick people that grow each night, and a story about a government machine that makes people forget about everything bad the government does. This book definitely gets bonus points for creativity, gorgeous illustrations and word choice that gave me chills.

I'm definitely a new Shaun Tan groupie and I look forward to reading more works by him.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Redeeming Love

Redeeming Love (A six-part study guide) Redeeming Love (A six-part study guide) by Francine Rivers

Book 54 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 5 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been meaning to read Francine Rivers for years. About a year ago, I started reading the Deanne Gist novels and Rivers got recommended again. I picked Redeeming Love up at a library book sale awhile ago, and finally decided to read it now because it is so highly ranked on Goodreads.

I was a bit daunted by the heft of the book (just over 460 pages) but they seriously flew by. I read this book in just over a day. This is Christian romance novel, based on the book of Hosea, but set in 1850s California. I have to admit, I knew very little about Hosea before I read this. Mainly, that the Lord commanded him to marry a prostitute. Who knew?! (Not me, obviously.)

I was completely hooked while I was reading this book. And yet, when I look back on it, I did find it cheesy, and a tad preachy and even unrealistic at times. However, I feel Rivers has created a compelling tale in an interesting setting and time period. This book is definitely rated PG-13 for heavy sexual themes, like child prostitution. But, there is nothing overly explicit in the descriptions. I would recommend this for Christian fiction fans for sure, anyone who enjoys a clean(er) romance, or books set during the Gold Rush.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 10) Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 53 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 5 of 10 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Zimbabwe/Scotland)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books is like floating down a lazy river on a lovely summer afternoon. Leisurely and well-paced, this 10th installment does not disappoint.

These short novels are not really classic formula mysteries, but there is always an interesting case to be solved during the course of each book. As for the mystery element of this book, Precious Ramotswe and her partner, Grace Makutsi, are charged with finding out who is betraying the local football (soccer) team.

On the personal front, Precious is having continued troubles with her little white van, and Grace is fearing her fiancee will be sucked into the charms of her arch-nemesis Violet. The thing I love about these books is the astute observations made about human nature that show consistency regardless of culture, race, location, religion, or economic position.

If you have not read books in this series, I highly recommend them!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Challenges Update

I recently completed the Support Your Local Library Challenge. I decided to read 25 library books because last year I didn't read 50 from the library. Now, I'm wondering if I should have gone for the big 50, but I am resolving to read more of the books I have on my shelf. Otherwise, I really can't justify my trips to bookstores, library book sales, Bookmooch, or the used bookstore. But, since the title of my blog is Library Queue after all, and I am a librarian, I am going to mentally keep track of how many more library books I read this year, even if not for the challenge.

Here are the 25 challenge books I got from the library:
  1. Every Soul a Star
  2. 84, Charing Cross Road
  3. Belong to Me
  4. Garden Spells
  5. A Poisoned Season
  6. Very Valentine
  7. A Fatal Waltz
  8. Hush
  9. Hattie Big Sky
  10. The Geography of Bliss
  11. The House on Tradd Street
  12. The Help
  13. Among the Mad
  14. Banker to the Poor
  15. The Adoration of Jenna Fox
  16. Wake
  17. Poison Study
  18. Unwind
  19. The Season
  20. 11 Birthdays
  21. Perfect You
  22. Magic Study
  23. Miss Buncle's Book
  24. Fire Study
  25. The Blue Castle

I am joining Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge again this year. My three possible book choices are:
  1. Gone With the Wind
  2. Southern Ladies & Gentlemen
  3. Plantation
I rarely stick to these lists. But, I do have good intentions!

Finally, I joined the New Author Challenge. The challenge is to read 50 books by new authors during the year. I decided to start counting now, but if I don't make it to my 50 by December, I know I read at least 30 new authors before starting the challenge. I'm interested to see how I far I get!

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom Library) The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Book 52 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 4 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 4 of 10 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (The Netherlands)

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Corrie ten Boom was in her 50s when World War II broke out. She lived with her unmarried sister and her father in an old home in downtown Haarlem. Corrie learned the art of watchmaking from her father, and she was the first woman licensed watchmaker in the Netherlands.

The ten Booms became part of an underground network that took care of Jewish people during the occupation of the Netherlands. They even had a false wall built in their home to hide those who were staying with them. Eventually, they were betrayed and Corrie ten Boom was send to a concentration camp.

While some Holocaust books can be depressing, this is a book of hope, optimism and forgiveness in even the most trying of circumstances. Corrie and her sister Betsie saw miracles occur as they sought to do God's will both in Holland and in Germany where they were imprisoned. Their faith and determination were a blessing to all those they came in contact with, even their captors.

This is truly and inspirational novel from a remarkable woman. I highly recommend it.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Four Corners of the Sky

The Four Corners of the Sky: A NovelThe Four Corners of the Sky: A Novel by Michael Malone

Published by: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication date: May 11, 2009
560 Pages
ISBN: 1570717443 (ISBN13: 9781570717444)

Book 51 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 3 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Michael Malone is an Emmy-award winning author from North Carolina, so I was excited to receive a copy of this book for review. This book has a great premise about a girl whose dad is con man. After living life on the run, Annie is dropped off at age seven to be raised by her aunt and her aunt's male best friend in Emerald, NC. But her dad has left an airplane in the barn for her, and when she is 26 he contacts her to say he's dying and he needs the plane. Annie, now a naval fighter pilot going through a divorce, just wants to know who her mother is.

The first half of the book moved really slowly for me, but the last half sped right by. Sure, the plot was implausible (Miami Vice, FBI, and the Cuban mob were all involved) and the coincidences were a little ridiculous at times. But as Annie traveled to St. Louis, Miami and Cuba, she puts the pieces of her life together and is able to better understand who she is and where she came from. She also learns that love comes in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes where you least expect it.

I did feel some parts had a little too much detail and there were a couple of anachronisms that I noticed. I also don't think that in real life, a naval officer would handle the situation how Annie did. But overall, this is fun read if you like action-thriller type books with some good character development thrown in. This book would definitely qualify for the Southern Reading Challenge too!

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Indigo's Star

Indigo's Star Indigo's Star by Hilary McKay

Book 50 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge

Awards: BCCB Blue Ribbon Book; SLJ Best Book; Horn Book Fanfare; ALA Notable/Best Books

rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Casson family series (the first being Saffy's Angel). This family is so delightfully quirky I just can't help but be in love with them.

This book focuses on Indigo, the only boy in the family. He is 12 years old and is being bullied at school. That all changes when an American boy named Tom moves in and the rabble decide to bully him instead. As a result, Indigo and Tom forge a bond that cannot be broken.

I loved the second half of this book. Don't get me wrong, the first half was great. But the second half made me laugh and cry with its wonderfulness. From ditzy Caddy who is trying out boyfriends to make sure she really has the one she wants to marry, to Saffy and Sarah sticking up for their brother with righteous indignation. From Eve, the mom, still hiding out in the shed, to precious darling Rose, who just wants her dad to come home from London.

For ages 10 and up, I really can't recommend this series enough. Next up: Permanent Rose.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Midwife

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth

Published: April 7th 2009 by Penguin Books
Number of pages: 352
ISBN: 0143116231 (ISBN13: 9780143116233)

Book 49 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 2 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

rating: 4 of 5 stars

A midwife delivered my eldest when we were living in England 9 years ago. I was so young and clueless, I don't think I really fully appreciated the experience for what it was. A midwife not only takes care of all of the prenatal appointments, they also deliver the baby, and then visit your home for two weeks after delivery. My midwife was named Chandra and I have such fond memories of her. Just nine short months after delivering my first, I called her to tell her I was pregnant again. I'll never forget her response: "Well done Patricia!" like I had just won the lottery.

With all of my personal feelings wrapped into the institution of British midwifery, I was thrilled to get a review copy of this book. The Midwife is an eye-opening look at the life of a young midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s. After her nursing training, Jennifer Worth decided to go an live in a convent where she could receive her midwifery certification by working with the nuns. Not only was Jennifer's time with the Sisters beneficial from her professional and intellectual standpoint, but she also gleaned a spiritual sense that she had previously doubted existed.

Jennifer shares a series of remarkable, uplifting, heartbreaking and interesting stories about her time in this poor area of London, struggling to rebuild after the close of World War II. Examples of her tales include rescuing a pregnant prostitute, delivering the very premature 25th child of a Spanish woman, and delivering babies who were obviously racially mixed when both husband and wife were white. Her social commentary of the time is also incredibly detailed, including living conditions, public policy, and the characteristics that made up the moral fiber of this unique community. Plus, the Cockney accent was just really fun to read!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I would recommend it for anyone interested in midwifery with all its gory details. I will say that some parts made me squirm, and I've had four children! Her investigation into prostitution was also hard for me to get through. But, I can't count the number of chapters I finished with tears in my eyes. This book is such a great testament to the resiliency of women, both the mothers and the midwives, and of course, the miracle of birth.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney

Books 46, 47 & 48 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 1 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

Awards books in this series have received: Book Sense Book of the Year Award/Honorees; Publishers Weekly Best Book; Quill Book Awards; YALSA Top Ten; VOYA Award/Honor

rating: 2.75 of 5 stars

Since my 8 year old has been raving about this series, I decided to pick them up and see what all the fuss is about. They were great to take along in the car since I got them all read over a week of running errands and sitting in parking lots waiting for my kids.

Greg Heffley is a 6th grader (7th in the second two books) who is small for his age and of average intelligence. He has a teenage brother, Rodrick, and a baby brother, Manny, who are a big part of the stories. His friend Rowley is super immature (he has sleepovers with 1st graders from his karate class) which bugs Greg to no end, but he doesn't really have any other close friends. Greg is always getting into mischief as he tries to be more popular, attract the attention of girls and stay under the radar of his parents.

I know my daughter likes these books because she really likes graphic novels.
I can definitely see the appeal: The insides of the books look like the inside of a journal, complete with cute comics. These don't really qualify as graphic novels, but there is such a limited selection for the middle grades that she'll take these.

The conservative mom in me isn't really a fan. The kid in me thinks they're pretty funny though.
There is an abundance of bathroom humor (Greg's brother is in a band called Loded Diper) and there is quite a bit of sarcasm which I think may go over the head of younger kids (like my 7 year old son). I'm glad I read them because I can talk about their merits with my kids. And, I give major props to the author who wrote in a strong mom character. Greg never gets away with anything in the end.

The books are written at a 5th grade level and I would only recommend them for ages 8 to 12. Although Greg is in 7th grade, I think the books would appeal to a slightly younger set where wearing Wonder Woman underoos is still funny.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Book 45 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 25 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge

Book 3 of 10 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Canada)
Book 1 for the Classics Challenge

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Growing up, I'm not actually sure whether I read all the Anne books or not. But, I KNOW I read the Emily books because they were my favorite pre-teen reads. The Blue Castle is one of only two adult books by L.M. Montgomery (the other being A Tangled Web) and is my face-t0-face book club's pick for May.

Valancy Stirling is a plain-looking "old maid." She lives with her mother and her cousin and her life is the same day in and day out. Three meals a day at exactly the same time, the same old jokes from the same boorish family members, the same household chores, the same complaints, over and over again. But on her 29th birthday, Valancy decides to surreptitiously visit a doctor to discuss a heart condition that has been bothering her. The result of the visit sets Valancy on a course that allows her to break free from her oppressive family and truly live for herself for the first time.

This is a beautifully written romance novel that I read in one sitting. I find the problem with L.M. Montgomery is that I get an ache to visit Canada and discover its wild natural beauty. She writes nature with such gorgeous fluidity in this novel. This book was definitely predictable (there was one thing that surprised me at the end though) but the enchanting journey is definitely worth the ride. I loved it.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Fire Study

Fire Study (Study, Book 3) Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Book 44 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 24 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fire Study is the final installment of the Study series by Maria V. Snyder. In this concluding book, Yelena continues her magic studies but finds she has a weakness when it comes to dealing with fire. She must learn how to overcome her fears and dig deep to become the person she is meant to be.

The first half of this book was actually pretty slow-going for me. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that certain people that I love in this series don't show up until about 200 pages in. But once they did show up, the plot lines got crazy, my mind started spinning, and the pages were turning fast. This book is definitely heavy on the fantasy element with a lot of intrigue involved. Some of it was easy to figure out, but some of it kept me guessing until the end. Overall, this was a satisfying end to a great trilogy.

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